NBC revives sitcoms with ‘Perfect Couples’

By Robert Lloyd
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES – No sooner are sitcoms pronounced dead, again, than they begin popping up all over, like Whac-a-Moles. This year we have been and will be getting a passel of relationship comedies built around interrelated contrasting sets of couples (and sometimes singles), usually packaged in groups of three, a la “Modern Family,” whose success surely helped turn these lights green. There are perhaps more of them than the market can bear, but if any have to go, I would rather it not be “Perfect Couples.”

The series, which begins today on NBC, fills the final slot in what is now a full night’s worth of half-hour situation comedies – a rare thing – the least of which are pretty good and the best of which are among the funniest shows on television. Although the pilot feels somewhat made-to-order and its characters are schematically arrayed – publicity materials describe them as “the everyday couple” (Kyle Bornheimer and Christine Woods), “the high-passion couple” (David Walton and Mary Elizabeth Ellis) and “the couple that strives to be perfect” (Hayes MacArthur and Olivia Munn), subsequent episodes grow looser and more natural, even as they get stranger.

The title is meant to be ironic, since there is friction between the partners, and yet not, since they are all tightly bound. That is about all the premise there is, other than that the six of them, who spend all their time in various configurations of one another’s company, are moving into their 30s — not yet through with their heedless youth but with a growing consciousness of the rest of their future. (“Listen … ,” Woods says to Bornheimer, who has high cholesterol mixed with an unfortunate taste for junk food, “I love you, and I need to wring, like, 60 more good years out of you.”)

Created by Jon Pollack (“30 Rock,” whose exaggerated reality it lightly echoes) and Scott Silveri (“Friends,” of which it is a kind of single-camera cousin), “Perfect Couples” works best as a kind of chamber music for half a dozen comic actors. (There are no weak links among them.) Here are some things the characters say in the course of it:

”I made a witty comment to a male Starbucks barista. Not everyone does that. “

”What about feminism? What did our aunts die for?”

”The man cave doesn’t want to be gender-specific, it just wants to be a cave.”